“Twisted Desires,” Boy-Lovers, and Male–Male Cross-Generational Sex in the Late Ottoman Empire (1912–1918)

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Tuğçe Kayaal University of Michigan, USA tkayaal@umich.edu

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This article explores the condemnation of male–male cross-generational sexual practices in the Ottoman Empire during World War I (1914–1918) through a sexual harassment case that took place in an orphanage in Konya. Relying on the police registers and incorporating individual testimonies of orphan boys who were sexually abused by the headmaster, Münir Bey, I explore the wartime political and sexological discourses on cross-generational homoerotic sexual practices against the backdrop of the institutionalization of heterosexual sex. I argue that, rather than the act of sexual abuse itself, in the wartime ideological climate it was the sexual interaction between same-sex individuals that alarmed Ottoman state and society and forced them to take action against it. Male–male cross-generational sex and homoeroticism itself became bigger crimes than the act of sexually abusing underage individuals.

Contributor Notes

Tuğçe Kayaal is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan in the Middle East Studies Department. She received her BA from Marmara University (Istanbul) in Political Science and International Relations, and received her MA degrees from Sabancı University (Istanbul) in History and the University of Michigan in Near Eastern Studies. In 2018, she was an A. Bartlett Giamatti Graduate Student Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities, and in 2019 she published an article titled “Breastfeeding: Ottoman Empire” in the Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures (EWIC). Currently, she is writing her dissertation on war orphans and youth sexuality in the late Ottoman Empire (1912–1923). Email: tkayaal@umich.edu

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